Open source: The new normal in higher education?

“As open technologies grow more popular in the commercial world—in part, because students and professors brought their experiences from academia with them to industry—that further reinforces the natural bias,” said Gunnar Hellekson, chief technology strategist for Red Hat, a leading open-source solutions provider. “Open technologies allow academia and industry to more easily collaborate in an ad-hoc way.”

Campus technologists were bowled over by the news last March that Blackboard was buying Moodlerooms, which hosts and supports a version of the open-source Moodle LMS, a longtime favorite of open-source evangelists. Blackboard also purchased an Australia-based supporter of Moodle called NetSpot and announced the creation of an Open Source Services Group that will include Charles Severance, a leading advocate for the open-source movement in higher education and a founding member of the Sakai Foundation, an organization that pushes for open-source educational software adoption.

Seven months later, open-source advocates remain skeptical of Blackboard’s commitment to true open-source teaching and learning tools.

Bettino, when asked about Blackboard’s headfirst dive into open-source technologies, didn’t mince words.

“They’re the devil,” he said with a laugh. “They’re going to do anything they can to wiggle into the middle of these things.”

Getting into the open-source game, Coppola said, made good business sense for the LMS behemoth. What Blackboard would do for open technologies still is unclear.

“Shifting their model toward open source seemed like a logical move,” he said. “But open source is much more than a statement of support. Open source should be a part of your DNA.”

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